Fish Lake Utah – Fun Things To Do in the Lakes and Mountains

September 2019 – The area around Fish Lake is a wonderfully remote corner of Utah that we’ve enjoyed exploring, and the tiny spot that is at the heart of this place is the Fish Lake Lodge.

Fish Lake and Forsyth Reservoir Natural Beauty in Utah

The Fish Lake area of Utah is remote and full of Nature’s wondrous beauty

Fish Lake Lodge is open only during the summer, and we arrived late enough in the season that the fantastic dining room in this decades old log lodge was closed. But we were able to tip-toe into the dining room and take a peak. Wow!

Fireplace in dining room at Fish Lake Lodge Utah-min

Fish Lake Lodge has an inviting dining room and very cozy fireplace.

The dining room has a wall of windows that face the lake. Talk about dining with a view!

Dining room in Fish Lake Lodge Utah-min

Dinner with a view at Fish Lake Lodge

FIsh Lake reflects in the dining room windows at Fish Lake Lodge Utah-min

Outside on the deck, the wall of windows reflects the image of Fish Lake

Built between 1928 and 1933, this historic lodge made from locally harvested spruce logs has hosted travelers for nearly 90 years. Modern day travelers can rent charming lakefront cabins on the property, and RVers can set up camp with full hookups in the RV park.

The deck at Fish Lake Lodge Utah-min

Fish Lake Lodge

Exterior of Fish Lake Lodge Utah-min

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As we wandered around the outside of the building, we came across an absolutely fabulous old door.

Cool doorway at Fish Lake Lodge Utah-min

What a cool door!

There are lots of trails for hiking, walking and slow strolling in the area around Fish Lake, and every morning Mark took our pup Buddy out for a run.

Running with puppy

Buddy leaps into action — all four paws off the ground — at the start of his morning run with Mark

Buddy just loves his morning run, but his fast pace makes it tough for two footed runners to hang with him.

He likes to start his runs with a steady four minute mile pace, and he doesn’t throttle it back to a five minute mile pace until he’s gotten a mile or two under his belt. Yikes!

Running with puppy-min

Four short legs are a lot faster than two long ones!

My absolute favorite trail in the Fish Lake area is the portion of the miles-long Lakeshore Trail that goes southwest from the Fish Lake Lodge. It winds along the water’s edge for a mostly shady mile or two.

Lakeshore trail through aspen grove Fish Lake Utah-min

Lakeshore Trail heading southwest from Fish Lake Lodge was my favorite.

Buddy loves this trail too. It goes through a beautiful grove of aspen trees and is just wide enough to walk, run or bike comfortably yet stil feel intimate as you progress under the canopy of trees.

Aspen grove on Lakeshore Trail at Fish Lake Utah-min

Some folks run this trail and then have to wait for their slower companions to catch up

Puppy leads the way on Lakeshore Trail at Fish Lake Utah-min

The trail winds along the lake

Along the Lakeshore Trail there are lots of places where you can get down to the edge of the lake. We zipped up and down these short paths, and at one point we found a few aspen trees that beavers had gnawed on. One was even toppled over and had a huge pile of small wood chips next to it!

Beaver chewed aspen tree at Fish Lake Utah-min

Beavers had been busy!

In the middle of the aspen grove, the trees suddenly parted and the trail opened up to the sky. Looking down at our feet we found a wonderful area of rocks, wildflowers and deep puddles where Mother Nature had done some exquisite landscaping.

Mother Nature's landscaping at Fish Lake Utah-min

Beautifully casual landscape designs by Mother Nature

Flowers at Fish Lake Utah-min

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The Lakeshore Trail wanders all along the shores of Fish Lake both north and south of the Fish Lake Lodge, and it is a truly delightful walk.

Pretty view at Fish Lake Utah-min

A nice spot to rest a spell…

Fishing at Fish Lake Utah-min

Pretty in Pink!

Forest shoreline Lakeshore Trail Fish Lake Utah-min

Shoreside view of Fish Lake

In addition to hiking and biking trails, there are also lots of two track motor vehicle trails, and we took our RZR on one two track trail that took us way up into the hills where we got a beautiful view of Fish Lake.

Fish Lake Utah-min

View from a bluff in the hills on a brilliant sunny day which made the water a vivid blue

Horseback riding is very popular around Fish Lake, and there are lots of horse-friendly trails.

Horses preparing for a ride near Fish Lake Utah-min

Horseback riders prepare for a trail ride.

One of the many US Forest Service campgrounds in the area is an equestrian-only campground. This unique campground has solid, well built horse stalls right next to each campsite. Some are single stalls and one can hold four horses! Most of the stalls are well shaded.

However, you can only stay at this campground if you have a horse with you!

Horseback riders near Fish Lake Utah-min

Riding at dawn

There are lots of smaller lakes in the area, and we spent some time at nearby Forsyth Reservoir, both walking and riding the RZR on the wide trails that criss-cross the area.

Forsyth Reservoir Utah-min

Forsyth Reservoir

Trail at Forsyth Reservoir Utah-min

Our little trail scout leads the way down the trail at Forsyth Reservoir

Forsyth Reservoir Utah-min

Our RZR took us high above the lake

Buddy absolutely loves water (but only wading…no swimming!), and he drank freely from a spring that flowed down to the reservoir.

Something about the fresh air, fresh water, and the little beach area brought out his inner puppy, and before we knew it he was doing high jumps!

Puppy jumping-min

Buddy jumps for joy…

Puppy jumps for a stick at the lake-min

…and throws in some dance moves!

Since this is a mountainous area, the weather was highly unpredictable and ranged from really hot to really cold to crystal clear skies to fabulous storm clouds.

Light and shadow with storm clouds Forsyth Reservoir Utah-min

Light and shadow play on the land at Forsyth Reservoir

Rainbow

After the storm…

Puppy watches storm clouds-min

Saying goodnight to the clouds at sunset

RV under stormy skies at sunset-min

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Late one afternoon we were surprised to see an almost full moon rising. We took note of the time, and the next day, about an hour later and a few degrees to the left of where the moon had risen the day before, we watched the full moon rise out of the trees on a distant hillside.

Full moon rises above the trees-min

The moon rises behind the trees on a distant hillside

Full moon rising behind the trees-min (1)

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Full moon rises from the trees-min

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Full moon rises from trees-min

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Full moon at night-min

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We’ve really enjoyed exploring this quiet part of Utah where it’s not uncommon to see deer crossing the highway and herons stalking fish in the lakes. We even had a troop of five elk walked right by our campsite one evening! If your travels take you to central Utah, Fish Lake is worth a detour to see.

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Spring Has Sprung! – Sweet Days at Roosevelt Lake, Arizona

April 2019 – The travel stories on this blog often present the fantastic new discoveries we’ve made in our travels, but sometimes our life on the road progresses uneventfully. And so it has these past weeks.

Revisiting and staying in a place we know know and love, we’ve found that each day has slipped into the next without fanfare or breathtaking thrills. Life has been moving at a sweet and gentle pace!

Sunset in eastern Arizona-min

Sunset in eastern Arizona.

RV fifth wheel trailer under the stars-min

Camping under the stars.

After exploring a little bit of eastern Arizona, we made our way to Roosevelt Lake where Spring was in full bloom.

Roosevelt Lake Arizona-min

Roosevelt Lake

The water level in the lake had been at 49% when we’d visited in January, and was shockingly low. Many former coves and bays had been filled with trees.

Now the lake had swollen to 84% of full volume and showed few signs of slowing down. Lots of hiking trails and dirt roads we’d explored in January were now under 20′ of water!

Arizona Roosevelt Lake-min

Swollen banks and submerged trees!

Roosevelt Lake is the first lake in the chain of dammed lakes in the Salt River as it flows downstream, so this fast rise in the lake’s water level was due to rain and snow-melt upstream rather than the simple opening of floodgates in a dam. How wonderful to see the desert get such a nice big drink from Mother Nature!

Yellow wildflowers at Roosevelt Lake Arizona-min

Yellow flowers dance above the shores of Roosevelt Lake

Yellow, pink and purple wildflowers were in bloom in every nook and cranny of the desert. They craned their faces towards the sun. Some of the cactus varieties had begun to bloom too. Their flowers were big and vibrant, bursting out of the nasty thorny cactus arms in a gorgeous display. It was as if Nature were saying through these blossoms, “Never judge a book by its cover!”

Cactus flowers in Arizona Spring-min

The prickliest cactus bear the most beautiful flowers.

Cactus flowers in Spring in Arizona-min

For the 50 weeks a year that these flowers aren’t blooming you’d never guess what those other 2 weeks are like!

We took our new little RZR out on the roads through the desert to see if we could find more flowers. It wasn’t hard!

Polaris RZR with lupine wildflowers in Arizona-min

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Every now and then we’d get a whiff of a flowery fragrance wafting through the air. Buddy rode with his nose twitching eagerly.

Puppy sniffs the breeze in Polaris RZR-min

Buddy sniffs the air as we drive in the RZR.

For some reason some of the best wildflower displays seem to be along the edges of big paved roads and surrounding parking lots. We found some glorious bunches of flowers in and around Tonto National Monument.

Wildflowers in Arizona spring-min

The wildflowers were most plentiful along the paved highways!

Wildflowers in Arizona-min

And around Tonto National Monument too!

A few years ago we’d visited the Boyce Thompson Arboretum which specializes in Sonoran Desert plants, but the flowers blooming in the parking lot had soaked up all our energy and after two hours of roaming around the parking lot and filling our cameras with photos we’d had almost no energy left to see whatever was on display inside the Arboretum!

So it was here. Tonto National Monument has a delightful picnic area that is rarely used, but the wildflowers around the artfully situated picnic ramadas are lovely!

Wildflowers in Arizona-min

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Wildflowers in Arizona-min

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We couldn’t get over the rise in the lake’s water level, and we wandered down to the water’s edge many times to monitor its progress as it rose each day. Sunny hot days soon gave way to blustery cold days. The waves took on a menacing look and the patterns in the sky were beautiful as the dark clouds raced across the heavens.

Waves at Roosevelt Lake Arizona-min

Wind whipped the waves on the shore.

Curvy tree trunk and swirling cloud-min

An unusual curvy cloud and tree trunk.

Polaris RZR

Storm clouds by the shore.

Every single boat ramp around the lake was open, something we haven’t seen in years, and along with that, many campground loops near the boat ramps that had been closed for a long time were now open as well.

The flip side of that, though, was that one of the lowest lying boat ramps — the one that never has to close, even when the lake level drops super low — was almost completely submerged.

Submerged dock and boat ramp at Roosevelt Lake-min

Not only did you have to walk uphill onto the floating dock, the entire boat ramp was under water (left),
all the way up to the tippy top!

Mark drove the RZR through the water at the top of the boat ramp and had fun making waves.

Polaris RZR driving through water in Arizona-min

Mark had fun splashing in the water at the top of the boat ramp.

Polaris RZR leaves a wake in the water at an Arizona boat ramp-min

Weeee!

As Easter Weekend approached, more and more people came out to enjoy the lake. Hundreds of boats filled the parking lots and fishermen were eagerly casting.

Fishing at Roosevelt Lake-min

The anglers were out in droves, both on shore and in fishing boats.

Buddy’s favorite part of these peaceful days was lizard hunting. His preferred method of going after these lightning fast creatures is to leap in the air and pounce. We spent many happy hours watching him and trying to catch him in the act on our cameras. But it’s not so easy!

Puppy jumping in the lupine in Arizona-min

Leaping for lizards!

Puppy jumping in the wildflowers in Arizona-min

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While he chased the lizards and occasional jack rabbits we savored the brilliant colors of spring.

Pink Wildflowers in Arizona-min

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Wildflowers in Arizona-min

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Delicate wildflower in Arizona-min

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Arizona wildflowers

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Pink and yellow wildflowers in Arizona-min

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One evening the sky gave us an especially dramatic sunset. Above the horizon a huge cloud swirled and rolled over and around itself like a ball of pink cotton candy in the sky.

Sunset at Roosevelt Lake Arizona-min

Cotton candy!

Sunset across the lake brought some lovely reflections.

Sunset over Four Peaks Arizona-min

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And a full moon rose over the desert.

Full moonrise at dusk in Arizona-min

Full moon rising

Sometimes the best times in our travels are the quiet languid days when we slow down and bask in a beloved place once again!

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Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, New Mexico – A Dog’s Eye View!

November 2018 – Hi Everyone. This is Buddy here.

I’m writing our blog post this week because Emily (she’s Mumma to me) has been very busy all week long working on a project for something called Tail or Life!

Puppy writes an RV blog post-min

She left her chair and her laptop, so I’m blogging this week!

Oh, wait. She just made a face at me and is saying something really slowly.

Oops! Ahem. It’s for something called Trailer Life.

Anyway, she has been glued to her computer for days to get it done, and she says she doesn’t want to sit in her chair or stare at her computer any more for a while.

But we recently spent a week at a really nice state park that you’ve just gotta go see. It’s called Oliver Lee Memorial State Park and it is about 12 miles southeast of Alamagordo in New Mexico, kinda near White Sands National Monument.

So, I want to tell you about it.

Riparian nature trail Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

The Riparian Nature Trail in Oliver Lee State Park

The best part about this park is that the main attraction — a beautiful hiking trail — goes into a place called Dog Canyon.

Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico Riparian Nature Trail-min

Dog Canyon is made for dogs!

If you run (or hike) past the picnic table that seems to be the end of the trail, you’ll find some fabulous rocks and a little stream that flows through them all. We didn’t find it the first time we ran this trail because we didn’t know the trail went beyond that picnic table, but it does. So don’t miss it!

Water in ravine Riparian Nature Trail Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

There’s a trickle of a stream in this pretty ravine.

One time we hiked this trail we saw a huge tarantula crawling around on the rocks. We found out later that the tarantulas were in their mating season, so they were on the prowl trying to find each other.

Mark takes a photo of a tarantula-min

A tarantula!

tarantula in Oliver Lee Memorial State Park New Mexico

Looking for love!

Photo shoot Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico Riparian Nature Trail-min

I’m more lovable than a tarantula.

This is such a great trail. Every dog that visits Oliver Lee Memorial State Park loves it. And why not? It’s Dog Canyon!

Puppy on Riparian Nature Trail Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

We hiked this trail everyday.

The other hiking trail goes up the side of a huge mountain. There are lots of switchbacks and some really fun scrambles. You can see the campground from some of the lookouts.

View on mountain hike Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

The hike up the mountain is steep and can be hot — bring water — but the view is wonderful!

About 0.6 miles into the hike the map said there was a place called the “First Bench.” So we went looking all over for a park bench. Little did we know that the “bench” was just a quarter mile long plateau with a fabulous view looking into Dog Canyon!

Canyon view on mountain hike Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

A dog’s eye view of Dog Canyon.

One day when we were out walking we came across a big snake.

Puppy sees a rattlesnake Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

A snake!!

While I was looking at it I cast my shadow across him.

Puppy sees a snake Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

What does that snake think of my shadow?!

If you go to Oliver Lee Memorial State Park in November, it can be warm and it can be very cold too. On the cold days I hung out in my fort.

Puppy plays house in RV-min

We had some rainy days and even got a dusting of snow. So I played house inside.

And sometimes I played peekaboo.

Peekaboo

Peekaboo!

Sometimes in the morning it was only 42 degrees inside. So Mumma made me a special superman outfit from an old sweatshirt to keep me warm all night long.

Cold nights puppy wears superman outfit-min

My superman outfit keeps me warm on those cold nights.

One of the best things at the end of the day was watching the sunsets. They were spectacular.

Sunset over RV Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

We saw some incredible sunsets.

Puppy watches sunset Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

I like watching the sun go down.

Sunset over RV campground Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

Fire in the sky!

In the very early morning, the whole desert would glow pink and blue. Smoke from big wildfires in California arrived just as the moon got full, making it hazy near the horizon.

Full moon in California wildfire smoke Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

We had a full moon and it set just as the sky did its pink-and-blue magic in the early morning.

Full moon with wildfire smoke Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

The skies had been totally clear, but wildfire smoke that blew in made the moon a little hazy.

Desert sunset skyline Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

The New Mexico desert at dawn.

I’ve heard there was a famous photographer named Ansel Adams who took a photo in New Mexico that he called Moonrise over Hernandez. I don’t know where Hernandez is, but Dada got a cool shot of Moonrise over Alamagordo.

Moonrise over Alamagordo New Mexico

Moonrise over Alamagordo New Mexico

When the moon rose the next night it was huge and you could see lots of detail.

Full moon Oliver Lee Memorial State Park New Mexico-min

I’ve heard the moon is made of cheese… maybe so!

I’m a little bit of a fussy eater, and we have a huge bag of dog food I don’t like. One night I was told if I wasn’t going to eat it then it would go to someone else who would.

In the pitch dark I heard something outside and I woofed a little to let them know that the “someone” had showed up to eat my food.

It was a gray fox!

She didn’t stop eating, even with a flashlight on her. Later on in the night we went outside and I sniffed around and found out she had tiny baby cubs in the rocks on the edge of our campsite.

I’ve been told I look like a fox. I don’t know about that, but her cubs looked just like her, only much smaller.

Gray Fox at Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

We found out a gray fox lived in our campsite and had some really cute cubs in the rocks!

Well, that’s my story. I hope you liked it.

I’m going to take a nap now!

Puppy sleeping

Thanks for reading!

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A Smoky Moon, Badlands & Hummingbirds on the South Dakota Prairie

August 2018 — During the dog days of summer we hung out in the Big Horn mountains of Wyoming and in western South Dakota. We took it easy and enjoyed lots of naps.

Puppy sleeping on a mat-min

Buddy catches a snooze during the dog days of summer.

We hung our hummingbird feeder on our trailer window and lots of Rufous hummingbirds stopped by for a drink.

Hummingbirds at a window feeder on an RV-min

We put a hummingbird feeder on our RV window and promptly had customers!

Rufous hummingbird South Dakota-min

A Rufous hummingbird says “Hi!”

Hummingbird South Dakota-min

Woa… A hummer puts on the brakes as he zooms to the feeder.

They got so familiar with us and our rig that they hovered around us as we moved around our campsite. At times they’d hover right in front of our faces, as if to say, “Thanks for opening the bar!”

It was a blast trying to catch these guys in action as they flew all around us. Usually, just as we’d get the camera focused, they’d zip away. But every so often we got a great shot before they zoomed off!

Blurred wings rufous hummingbird South Dakota-min

Those little wings sure go fast!

Female Rufous hummingbird South Dakota-min

A female Rufous flies by.

As the weeks passed the smoke from the many western wildfires clouded the air. It was eerie to be living in a world that had quietly gone gray! As we drove into northern South Dakota the world seemed to be hiding behind a veil.

Roads less traveled in northern South Dakota-min

The smoke in northern Wyoming and South Dakota from wildfires far west of here was intense.

The air was thick. For the first time in our lives we heard local weather forecasts that called for “patchy smoke.” We’ve been in plenty of places that were smoky from wildfires, but smokiness was never predicted in the upcoming weather forecast!

Mist and smoke South Dakota-min

Smoke and mist grays out the view.

However, smoky air has its beautiful side. When the full moon rose it took on a fabulous shade of bright pink and orange as it climbed over the horizon.

Smoky pink full moon Reva Canyon South Dakota-min

The full moon rises bright orange/pink because of the smoke.

Red full moon from wildfire smoke South Dakota-min

It wasn’t the “Blood Moon” but sure could have been!

Fortunately, a storm front blew in and rain fell for two days. It was odd to be back in sweatshirts with our heater running at midday, but the air outside was wonderfully cleansed by the pouring rain.

RV camping in South Dakota-min

Dark skies brought lots of rained that thankfully cleared the air.

The next day the sun was able to shine once again. We came across a little outcropping of unusual rock formations and badlands tucked into a fold in the vast prairie landscape, and the sky glowed lavender in the early morning.

Lavender sky

Lavender sunrise.

Sunrise Reva Canyon South Dakota-min

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Even Buddy was excited to see the sun!

Dog and sunrise South Dakota-min

Buddy sings “Here Comes the Sun!”

We wandered around among the rock formations, marveling at the exotic shapes Mother Nature had created.

Reva Canyon South Dakota RV trip-min

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Reva Canyon Badlands South Dakota RV trip-min

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Small mesas in South Dakota RV trip-min

We had a ball wandering through these rock formations.

At sunset we saw another beautiful display of pink in the sky.

Sunset in a badland oasis in South Dakota-min

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Sunset photography with puppy-min

Buddy waited patiently while Mark snapped a pic.

Mini badlands in South Dakota-min

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We drove a little further and found the town of Buffalo which boasts a population of 380. On the edge of town we found a directory listing all the businesses and services that can be found in Buffalo. There was something very charming about these signs.

Town Directory Buffalo South Dakota RV trip-min

Town services directory for Buffalo, South Dakota.

Buffalo South Dakota RV trip-min

The main drag in Buffalo.

A pretty white church in town caught our eye. And the wood paneling inside the post office harkened back to a bygone era.

Buffalo South Dakota Congregational Church-min

The cute Congregational church.

Post office Buffalo South Dakota-min

Walking into the post office was a walk back in time.

There are a few places to stop for a bite to eat in Buffalo.

Blossoms and Brew Cafe Buffalo South Dakota-min

Blossoms and Brew Cafe.

One cafe was offering free beer! Well…almost.

Free beer sign in Buffalo South Dakota-min

Free Beer!!! Oh wait… not quite.

We’d seen lots of cattle out on the ranches as we had driven through the area, and of course all the cows had tags in their ears. I’d never thought much about where these tags come from, but inside the hardware store we found a whole display of cow ear tags!

Cow tags for sale in Buffalo South Dakota-min

Z Tags – The cow ear tags that stay in!

In another store there was a pair of swinging doors that led to a dark space lit with a neon sign that said, “Casino.” Why not slip inside and pull the handle?!

Old west casino Buffalo South Dakota-min

“Must be 21 to enter…!”

From friendly hummingbirds to smoky orange full moons to crazy badlands to a tiny town on the prairie, we’ve loved our off the beaten path travels in South Dakota!

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Magical Moments in the RV Life

March 2018 – As we started the first few weeks of the Chinese Year of the Dog, we realized that it really is a dog’s life out here in our cozy little RV.

Sleeping puppy under blankets in an RV-min

It’s a dog’s life in our little RV.

The best part about it is there’s always an endless range of possibilities waiting for us just outside our RV window.

Dog in RV looking out the window-min

What do you want to do today?


And for folks like us whose home address is a campsite, there’s nothing like camping out on a lake!

Dog looking at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Buddy loves exploring the shores of Lake Pleasant.

There’s always something going on out there on the lake, whether it’s people fishing from their boats, or folks out sailing, or pretty ducks floating by.

Duck swimming in Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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Mark took some old bread down to the shore to feed the ducks. Buddy was fascinated and watched intently.

Feeding the ducks at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Mark and Buddy feed the ducks.

Since we took Buddy under our wings, we have discovered that he is quite the socialite. Where we kinda stick to ourselves and lead quiet lives, Buddy likes to be the life of the party. He happily trots from RV door to RV door to find out just where the party is.

Puppy sitting on the steps of a fifth wheel trailer RV-min

Buddy is at home on the fifth wheel steps.
But this isn’t our fifth wheel!

As one glorious lakeside day rolled into the next one, we were blessed with many magical moments. One of the first was when we woke up to see fog and snow on the distant mountains. This isn’t very common in the Arizona desert, but it is truly magical when it happens.

Fog mist and snow in Arizona Sonoran Desert mountains-min

Fog and mist swirl around the distant mountains.

Snowcapped mountains Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Snow in the mountains!

Another morning we suddenly noticed a hot air balloon drifting over the lake. What a fun surprise!

Balloon flies over Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

On a cold morning we noticed a hot air balloon sailing over the lake.

Balloon and seagull in the sky-min

Flying with the birds.

In no time the balloon was flying right overhead, the flame easily visible above the basket. On the side of the balloon were the words, “God bless.”

Balloon flies overhead-min

Up, up and away!

And then, in the blink of an eye, the magical moment had passed and the balloon disappeared in the distance.

Balloon flies by RV at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

The balloon slipped from view.

One afternoon I returned from a little hike with Buddy to find a crowd of people staring at the dock. A bald eagle had just landed on the dock and was making short work of a fish he held down with his feet.

Bald eagle on the dock Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

A bald eagle stands over its catch.

I was floored at how big the eagle was. He dwarfed the nearby mallard ducks and seagulls. He was also very calm as he quietly tore the fish apart.

Bald eagle holds fish in feet at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Fresh fish. Yum!

I figured there was no way I could get back to our buggy and get my camera out in time, but I ran with Buddy and grabbed the camera with the big lens on it that was sitting on the table. I noticed it was Mark’s camera, but heck, he wasn’t here. No problem!

Just then, Mark opened the door. I shoved the camera into his hands and said, “Bald eagle! Quick! Run!” and pointed at the dock.

He took off like greased lightning while I hunted around for my camera and got my big 150-600 mm lens loaded onto it. Then Buddy and I took off for the dock too.

Even though quite a few minutes had passed, the eagle was still happily munching away on his fish. Some opportunistic seagulls were milling around nearby hoping for tidbits.

Both Mark and I were able to fire off some wonderful shots of this gorgeous bird as he finished his meal.

Bald Eagle head after eating fish-min

He needed to wipe his beak — which he did right before flying off.

Then he wiped his beak on the wooden dock and pumped his wings hard to fly up in the air. Looking at the photos later, I just loved the puffy pantaloons on his legs.

Flying bald eagle Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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Flying bald eagle Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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And then off he went. It had been another truly magical moment that soared into our lives and then flew away and into our memory.

Bald eagle flying over Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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One morning I woke up early and lazily raised the blinds to see what was going on in the world. To my astonishment, a fabulous orange full moon was in the midst of setting. It was another incredible OMG moment that I wanted desperately to catch on camera.

I tore through my clothes trying to find pants and a jacket and shoes as well as a camera with a long lens and a tripod to mount it on.

Our sweet puppy Buddy is not a morning person at all, but he watched me in amazement from his cozy spot under the blankets as I threw things all over the place in a total panic.

To get the biggest possible orb in the sky, I grabbed my beautiful brand new Nikon D500 that Mark had given me a few weeks prior for my birthday, and I attached my mammoth 150-600 mm lens to it. Being a crop-sensor camera, this effectively gave me a 900 mm lens.

But unfortunately I hadn’t memorized all the buttons on my new camera yet, and as I stood outside shivering in icy blasts of wind, I couldn’t remember how to get the settings I wanted.

Full moon rising near saguaro cactus Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

The moon set right before dawn.

As the moon dropped steadily out of the sky and slipped behind a saguaro cactus, framing a fabulous image I desperately wanted to capture, I chastised myself for not having taken the time yet to study this miraculous piece of gear.

Mark heard all the commotion and suddenly appeared at my side in his skivvies and bare feet as the bitter wind whipped across the lake. He gave me one of those “are you kidding?” and “tsk tsk” kind of looks and calmly showed me the buttons I’d been looking for.

We both got a good laugh, but we couldn’t wait to get another chance for better pics when the moon set at the end of the day. We would be prepared this time!

Rising full moon with saguaro cactus Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

The moon set behind a saguaro cactus…

So, late in the afternoon we watched for the moon to rise which happened right as the sun was setting. (For those who haven’t studied the night sky, that’s how full moons work: they shine all night long, rising at sunset and setting at sunrise).

Full moon rising in Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

At dusk a full moon suddenly rises behind a ridge.

It rose across the lake, casting a beautiful shaft of orange light across the water and the docks where a man was peacefully fishing. It was another magical moment.

Fishing under full moon Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

Fishing by the light of the moon.

The next morning we set the alarm so we wouldn’t miss the setting of the moon. This time we were completely prepared with all our gear laid out, including our Hoodman loupes, so we could see exactly what our pics looked like, and our remote shutter releases to help the cameras stay perfectly still as we took each photo.

The moon set about an hour later than it had the morning before, so the sky was lighter, and the moon’s path was quite a ways left of where it had been. We moved our positions so we could line the moon up with a different saguaro cactus. Then, slowly but surely, the moon sank behind the cactus and we each got some very satisfying shots.

Full moon setting behind saguaro cactus Arizona Sonoran Desert-min

The moon sets behind a saguaro cactus.

Full moon with saguaro cactus black and white-min

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It’s hard to describe the beauty of our RV lifestyle, because the most wondrous part is when beautiful surprises come to us unexpectedly. We couldn’t script happier days than these very special ones that were filled with such magical moments.

Sunset Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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Sunset at Lake Pleasant Arizona-min

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Dolly Steamboat – Gliding Through the Arizona Desert on Canyon Lake

February 2018 – One of the most enjoyable ways to experience the beauty of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona is to take a boat ride on one of the lakes around Phoenix. Years ago we rode on the Desert Belle on Saguaro Lake and absolutely loved it. This past week we took a ride on the Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake.

Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip

Dolly Steamboat floats through the Sonoran Desert on Canyon Lake in Arizona.

While we were camped in our RV on Canyon Lake, our new puppy Buddy loved going down on the beach, especially during our early morning photo sessions. He liked to show us how fast he could zip between the legs of our tripods.

Photography at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

Buddy shows us his slalom skills.

When he wasn’t busy doing that, he was sprinting across the lakeside lawn carrying his favorite pink rope toy.

Puppy Chow plays fetch at Canyon Lake RV Park-min

Canyon Lake Marina & Campground has a big open grassy area that’s great for playing fetch.

Late one afternoon while he was down on the beach playing with the waves, he noticed an inflatable boat that had been pulled up on the beach. Hmmmm… a boat ride might be pretty fun!

Boating at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

A little sailor dog is born.

While we were out walking the next morning I was busy snapping pics of our shadows on the ground when we looked up and noticed the Dolly Steamboat moored at the dock.

Walking with puppy at Canyon Lake Marina Arizona-min

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The Dolly Steamboat was patiently waiting to take her first group of passengers out for a nature tour on Canyon Lake.

Docked Dolly Steamboat at Canyon Lake Arizona on an RV trip-min

Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake

Dolly Steamboat docked at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

Dolly Steamboat rests at dawn.

A steamboat ride definitely seemed like it would be a lot of fun to do together.

Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

What would the pup think of a boat ride?!

Canyon Lake is a beautiful big, blue lake in the middle of the desert, and we had been getting lots of photos of it from the shore as we drove up and down the Apache Trail. But seeing a lake from the shore isn’t the same as seeing it from the water.

Canyon Lake Arizona RV Trip-min

Canyon Lake is a big blue expanse of water in the middle of the desert.

We talked about doing a boat ride on the Dolly Steamboat over dinner.

Puppy enjoys dinner in the RV-min

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And Buddy slept on the idea too.

Puppy relaxes in RV-min

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He slept right through the enormous rising full moon!

Full moon Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

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He’s a very quiet little pooch, but he does know how to express himself and let us know what he wants.

Puppy Chow in our RV-min

“I’ve been really really good for days. Can I go on that boat ride now?”

The next day we went to stand in line at the Dolly Steamboat dock. A group of kids in front of us eagerly waited for Dolly to come in from her last excursion.

Kids wait for Dolly Steamboat ride at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

Kids wait for the Dolly Steamboat to arrive at the dock.

Finally, she appeared, and we made our way down the dock and onto the boat.

Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

There she is!

Walking down to the Dolly Steamboat ride on Canyon Lake Arizona-min

Mark and Buddy walk down the dock.

Captain Jason was very friendly.

Captain Jason Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

Captain Jason.

Seen from our truck window on the Apache Trail (Route 88), Canyon Lake doesn’t look all that big. But to our surprise, we traveled three miles into the hinterlands, winding our way through fabulous rock canyons that were studded with saguaro cactus.

Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

Canyon Lake turns out to be a lot bigger than it seems from the Apache Trail.

Canyon Lake Dolly Steamboat ride in Arizona-min

The Dolly Steamboat heads into the canyon where it will disappear from view.

There is seating out on deck, and we found a seat at a table to take in the view.

Puppy on Dolly Steamboat Cruise Canyon Lake Arizona-min

There are wonderful seats on the deck that offer a great view.

While we marveled at the scenery, Buddy enjoyed the new smells.

Admiring views Canyon Lake Dolly Steamboat Arizona-min

Buddy tests the air with his nose.

We were startled at how rugged and dramatic the rock canyons were. As music by Enya played softly over the loudspeaker, we floated past exquisite desert landscapes.

The Captain was hoping to spot some big horn sheep, which are a fairly common sighting on this tour, but the herd was somewhere else that afternoon.

It didn’t matter, though, the scenery was so stunning.

Views on Dolly Steamboat Ride Canyon Lake Arizona-min

The rocky canyon is extremely craggy and rugged with saguaro cacti poking up all over the place.

Canyon Lake Scenery Dolly Steamboat Cruise Arizona-min

There were always more views around the next bend. There are two free boat-in campgrounds too!

The Dolly Steamboat has indoor seating down below, as well as snacks and goodies for sale.

Admiring the views Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona-min

If it’s too hot on deck, there’s a cool spot in the cabin with big picture windows.

But Buddy’s favorite spot was a place in the shade up on deck where he got a dog’s eye view.

Puppy enjoys the view on Canyon Lake Dolly Steamboat Ride Arizona-min

Buddy found a cool spot of his own down a narrow passageway on deck.

Finally, after about an hour and a half of gliding through the desert on glassy water, it was time to head back in to shore.

Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

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If you are traveling through the eastern side of Phoenix, Arizona, and have an afternoon or evening to spare, take a ride on the Dolly Steamboat. They have starlit dinner cruises too!

Dolly Steamboat Cruise with puppy Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

This simple little boat ride is a definite “must do” if you like the desert and want a scenic outing.

Note: The Apache Trail (Route 88 from Apache Junction to the Roosevelt Dam) is one of the most famous and popular scenic drives in central Arizona. It is full of hairpin turns and sweeping views, and there are serious drop-offs too! If taking your rig, scout with your tow vehicle or toad first. As of February 2018, the 18 mile paved portion is under construction for it’s entire length, and the winter traffic is significant, so allow plenty of time for delays — or wait until next year!

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Zion National Park’s Hidden Jewels – Off the Beaten Path in an RV!

December 2017 – Last year we took our RV to Zion National Park during the incredible fall foliage season in late October, and we were blown away by the beauty. We had visited Zion National Park several times before, but never when the leaves were turning.

We published two posts with pics and stories of our travel adventures at the time (here and here), and I had photos all ready to go for a third post, but by the time I was able to sit down and turn those photos into a blog post, it was January and our other more recent travel adventures were taking precedence.

Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

The scenic drives in and around Zion National Park are spectacular!

But I’ve got a window of time now, so here are our photos from “Hidden Zion,” the back roads that wander through the lesser known parts of Zion National Park and the surrounding area.

Zion Canyon National Park Kolob Canyons-min

We will never tire of visiting Zion National Park. It is one of America’s best!

The “front side” of Zion National Park is accessible from the village of Springdale and is visited by massive numbers of tourists every year. 4.3 million people jammed themselves into Zion Canyon in 2016, a 50% increase over 2014 which had been the busiest year until then. 2017 is surpassing that record by another 5%!!

Zion Canyon — the major canyon in Zion National Park — is without doubt the most dramatic part of the Park, but isn’t all there is to see…

Zion Canyon National Park Kolob Canyons view-min

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Kolob-Canyons-Road-Scenic-Drive-Zion-National-Park-Utah-min

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As I noted a few weeks back, just stopping the car along Route 9 on the east side of Zion National Park and walking 100 yards in from the highway can be a fabulous experience (blog post here).

View on Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

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Cattle grazing Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

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Over on the west side of the Zion National Park lies “Kolob Canyon,” a wonderful area full of towering red rocks and home to a few excellent (and little traveled) hiking trails.

Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

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Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

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There are roads leading towards the Park from several directions, and we poked our truck’s nose down a few to see what we’d find. After climbing for a long way, we were suddenly in the middle of an aspen grove.

Golden aspen Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

Aspen trees light up in fall!

The yellow trees were shedding their leaves in showers of gold, and we walked down a small road deep into the heart of the aspen grove, bewitched by the leaves swirling in the autumn breezes around us.

Yellow Aspen lane Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

An inviting road for a golden stroll…

We love aspen trees. There’s something about the way the leaves shimmer on the branches and the the way the white trunks grow in thick crowds, many adorned with little eyes, that we find very endearing.

Aspen Trees Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

White aspen tree trunks.

What better time for a selfie?!

Aspen Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

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We roamed around some more and came across an unexpected pond. The sky was alive with fantastic patterns of clouds high above.

Kolob Reservoir Zion National Park Utah-min

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We started back down again and were enchanted by the golden glow of the fields of gently swaying grass.

Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

Kolob Canyon at Zion National Park

Kolob Canyons View Zion National Park Utah-min

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We passed a rancher on horseback moving among his cattle. What a place to graze your herd!!

Cattle Drive Zion National Park Utah-min

Just another day at the office for this cowboy!

In the late afternoon light, the Kolob Canyon views were truly jaw dropping. I was very busy in the passenger’s seat snapping pics!

Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min

Kolob Canyon is knock-your-socks-off gorgeous!

Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min

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Every bend in the road yielded another stunning image.

Kolob Canyons Drive Zion National Park Utah-min

These views kept my shutter finger very busy!!

Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min

Breathtaking!


Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min

Talk about a scenic drive!

Zion National Park is one of those places that offers layer upon layer of wonder and is worthy of much leisurely wandering.

Hiking Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

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We thought we’d “been there and done that” years ago on a tent camping trip when we zipped through Zion on our way from Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon. On our next visit during our first year of full-timing we saw just a little bit more. Finally, on our RV trip to Zion last year, we hung around the area long enough to start exploring the nooks and crannies in depth.

Yet we still haven’t done any of the iconic hikes that make Zion National Park so famous, so it is still rock solid in its position at the top of our bucket list of “must see” places!!

Zion National Park Kolob Canyons RV Trip-min

Zion National Park is worthy of many return RV trips!

When I was in Paris a few months ago, a new friend asked me if we still find new places to go even after ten years of traveling around North America full-time. I had to laugh because we still feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of seeing anything.

What a beautiful life we are blessed to be living that we can go back to a place like Zion National Park again and again and still find ourselves awe-struck by the scenery and curious to find out what lies around the next bend.

Full moon Zion National Park Utah RV trip-min

A nearly full moon rises at Zion National Park.

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Sand Hollow State Park, Utah – An Oasis in the Desert!

November 2017 – Sand Hollow State Park is another jewel in southwestern Utah‘s stunningly beautiful crown of red rock scenery. Situated just 30 miles from Zion National Park, it is a newer state park that opened in 2003, and it boasts a beautiful blue reservoir, vivid orange beaches and a spectacular mountain backdrop.

RV camping Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Sand Hollow State Park in Utah

Just like nearby Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Sand Hollow is a lesser known gem in an area that is overflowing with beautiful National Parks.

As we noted in our post about Kanab, Utah, with Zion, Bryce and the Grand Canyon so close by, many RVers and other travelers have no idea there is even more to see in the area.

Boating at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A beautiful reservoir is at the heart of Sand Hollow State Park.

The man-made lake is bordered at one end by a dam which captures the flow of the Virgin River. At the other end there’s an inviting collection of red rocks. The beaches surrounding the reservoir are filled with vivid orange sand. The overall effect of blue sky, blue water, red rocks and sand is very dramatic and makes for a fun time wandering around with a camera.

Photography at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Bright orange beaches and rocks – a great spot for photography!

The lake at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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The reservoir at Sand Hollow State Park is beloved by people who like to play outside in nature. Out on the water in the distance, we saw some folks in a canoe making their way from shore to shore. The mountains rose behind them in awesome colors as the sun played hide and seek, casting shadows across the hilly contours.

Kayaking Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

What a backdrop for canoeing!

We no longer have our inflatable Hobie kayak, but being here on the water’s edge watching kayakers out on the reservoir got our minds turning. It sure looked like fun out there!

Kayaking Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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Down at our feet, the water was extremely clear. Tiny wavelets lapped the shore, and we could see every detail of the rocks under the water.

Clear water Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

The water is extremely clear.

Sunlight in water Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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There are several RV campgrounds and camping options within Sand Hollow State Park. Westside Campground has full hookups, paved loops, big sites and wonderful views.

RV camping Westside Campground Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Westside Campground.

RV camping Westside Campground Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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What we loved, though, was being down by the water where the reeds grow thick and tall.

Dramatic light Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Tall reeds hug the lake along the shore.

Wonderfully dark storm clouds hung over the mountains late one afternoon, but just as the sun started its final descent into the horizon behind us, it lit up the red rocks on the far shore as if pointing them out with a spot light.

Reeds and light at dusk Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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Light and shadow Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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At dawn pastel pinks filled the sky and water.

Pink reflections Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Soft light at dawn.

The orange sand beaches set aside for day use and picnics are endless. Deep soft sand dunes run down to the lake, and big groups of seagulls pierce the air with their haunting calls.

In one spot I caught a reflection of the distant mountains in a mirror-like pool in front of me.

Dramatic Light Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Reflections.

We were blessed to have been able to live on the water in our sailboat for a few years, and I’ve been lucky enough to live on the water in other boats and in a beach house for a few years in previous lives before that.

There is something about a large expanse of water filling a landscape that makes it come alive. It is ever changing, going from placid to fierce, from white to dark blue, and at Sand Hollow it even turns shades of pink, red and orange by the shore.

Rippling waves at RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Small waves ripple across the reservoir’s red sand bottom.

Sand Hollow State Park has a second campground with paved loops, gravel campsites and hookup options ranging from dry camping to water/electric. There’s also a spiffy toilet and shower building. It’s called Sand Pit Campground, which is a little unfair, because it isn’t a pit and it isn’t any sandier than anywhere else in the park.

I mean, if you go to Sand Hollow, you go to play in the sand and on the beach, right?!

There is also open boondocking (“primitive camping”) too, but you’ve got to scout it out very carefully and evaluate whether your RV can make it down and back on the soft sand trails that lead there. We gave it a shot with our buggy and were glad we have our new truck with its limited slip differential and rock solid four wheel drive.

RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Home Sweet Home.

The view out our door was breathtaking. And what we loved was the way the view was constantly changing.

View out RV door Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A beautiful sunny view right out our door.

View out RV door Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A beautiful cloudy view right out the door!

Claude Monet is famous for his series of impressionist paintings of haystacks. Each painting is unique, and the series shows how the light playing on the haystacks totally changed their look and feel, morning, noon and night.

For the same reasons, we became enraptured by the picnic table at our campsite.

Following Monet’s infinite simplicity in choosing the name “Haystacks,” we call our series of photos “Picnic Table.”

RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A photo series called “Picnic Table” 🙂

RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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During our stay, not only did the sun and clouds chase each other around the sky, leaving a continuous trail of beautiful artwork behind, but the moon played her part too. During sunset one evening, we caught her silent ascent as she peeked between the clouds and winked at us over the mountains.

Full moon rising Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A rising full moon smiles down on Sand Hollow State Park.

If your RV travels take you to the southwestern part of Utah, drop by Sand Hollow State Park and dig your toes in the sand!

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More info about Sand Hollow State Park:

The beach and sand are wonderful to play in at Sand Hollow, but we did see notices posted about what to do if you go swimming and end up with “Swimmer’s Itch.” Read up a bit on this before you jump in for a dip!

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10 Years of Full-time RVing and Sailing!! – The Early Years…

“Life is a Book, and those who don’t travel read only a page.” —St. Augstine, 354-430 AD

This week we are celebrating our 10th anniversary of taking off to travel full-time. As I look back on these immensely fulfilling years, I realize how right St. Augustine was when he wrote those insightful words 1,600 years ago.

Our ten year RV and sailing voyage has been an unbelievable journey in every way, and we still wake up every day feeling blessed and fortunate to live the way we do.

What a cool life!

10 years of full-time RV travel and sailing

May, 2017. Where did the years go?

Ten years is a significant chunk of our lives. When we started, we were passionate cyclists, and that hobby defined not only our every waking hour but our relationship too.

Now our days revolve around sightseeing, photography, meeting new people, writing about our experiences and moving from place to place. The evolution makes sense, though, because a big part of our love of cycling — and of bicycle touring especially — was being outdoors and seeing new scenery and camping.

Looking back at all we’ve been through for the last 10 years, we wouldn’t change a thing.

To celebrate our 10 years on the road, I have dug through our memories and older photos to find the images and moments that stand out in our minds. This post and the next share our full story and our evolution. It’s a long story, but to me, the best ones always are.

We began with a brand new 27′ travel trailer pulled by the Toyota Tundra we had originally purchased to tow the popup tent trailer that had taken us on many wonderful vacations and weekend getaways and introduced us to RVing.

1st full-time RV home travel trailer

Home sweet home – May 2007!

The interior was open and airy, and we were thrilled beyond belief to downsize our lives to be able to live comfortably in this pretty little rolling home.

Travel trailer interior first full-time RV home

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Travel trailer interior 1st full-time RV home

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Our first year was a whirlwind of “Wow” and “This is the First Time Ever!” experiences.

Yosemite National Park was one of our first major destinations after we picked up our trailer near Dallas, and all the major National Parks were at the top of our “must do right away” list.

Happy RVers at Yosemite National Park California

Beautiful Yosemite National Park was one of our first destinations.

We loved dry camping with our popup, so we looked for dry camping campgrounds in our new lifestyle wherever we went. At California’s Westport-Union State Park, under the open sky and perched above the crashing surf, we installed our initial solar power system.

RV camping on the California coast

Camping overlooking the ocean was a great place to install our solar power system.

Continuing up the coast, we quickly learned how scary it can be to drive a “big rig” on the twisty coastal roads of northern California and Oregon where logging trucks barrel around the corners at full speed.

Mark quickly got used to it, though, and despite going down a wrong road and having the classic new RVer’s terrifying experience of being in a tight spot with nowhere to turn around, we made it to some gorgeous places along the Oregon and Washington coasts.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse Oregon RV trip

Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Oregon

In Oregon we traded our Toyota Tundra for a much stronger Dodge Ram 3500 truck and discovered the stunning beauty of the Cascade mountains in Washington. Mt. Rainier seemed to pose in the background of every view.

Mt. Rainier RV roadtrip to Washington

Mt. Rainier in Washington

Seeing snow-capped mountain peaks was yet another “first.” At Olympic National Park we were awed by Hurricane Ridge, especially watching a bunch of kids heading up the mountains to go snow boarding in the middle of July!

RVers at Hurricane Ridge Olympic National Park Washington

Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, Washington

We took the ferry to Vancouver Island and scooted along the coast to Campbell River.

Witnessing real live sheepdog trials, and seeing goats living on a rooftop, and walking past houseboats in the harbor gave us more “firsts,” and taking our trailer on the ferry both ways was not just a “first” but a total thrill.

Back on the mainland we continued our insatiable quest for Beautiful Places at a breakneck speed.

Diablo Lake Washington scenic viewpoint on RV trip

Diablo Lake in Washington

Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park was soon in our sights, and it was only while looking at our photos of the steaming geysers later on in our rig that it dawned on me why the park is called “Yellowstone.”

Such was our simple innocence about this country we had lived in all our lives. It felt so awesome to be out seeing America up close.

Yellowstone National Park geysers at Mammoth

Geysers at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

One morning in Mammoth Campground at Yellowstone we woke up to see two young elk nuzzling each other right outside our window. Their courtship went on for 15 minutes while we watched them wide-eyed and glued to the window.

Young elk courting outside RV window Yellowstone National Park

Young elk nuzzling outside our trailer window!

More Yellowstone firsts included seeing wild burros, pronghorn antelope, and coming within a few feet of a bison.

Every day we were in a breathless state of ecstasy.

Besides whipping through our bucket list — which wasn’t very long back then — we woke up every day astonished to realize that we were free. Utterly free.

There was no alarm waking us up, no boss tapping his toes waiting for us, and no employees or kids needing our daily guidance.

Grand Teton National Park Wyoming RV travel

Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

We actually felt a little funny about running away to such an awesome lifestyle so young. We were 47 and 53 years old, and everyone we met would ask in disbelief, “Are you retired?”

We hadn’t realized that the world of full-time travelers, and indeed the world of people in general who are out and about during the day on weekdays, is dominated by retirees.

We’d joke and say, “We’re not working at the moment. If we run out of money later, we’ll become greeters at Walmart!”

Mt. Rushmore National Park Presidents heads from scenic viewpoint RV rest area

Mt. Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota.

We zipped through South Dakota to finish establishing our residency there and then turned south.

Utah had become our favorite state during our vacation RV travels with our popup tent trailer, and in our first year on the road we discovered wondrous Goblin Valley where a little kid running ahead of me into the vast playground of red rock hoodoos yelled out: “This is Heaven!”

Goblin Valley State Park RV campground Utah

Camping at beautiful Goblin Valley State Park in Utah

Nearby, we hiked our first slot canyon, Little Wild Horse Canyon, and we loved every minute of slithering between the towering, curvy walls.

Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon Goblin Valley Utah

Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon in Utah

One of my lifelong dreams had been to become a published writer. As Halloween of 2007 neared, I decided it was time to put my writing dream to the test. Very much inspired by Kay Peterson who was a prolific writer and founder of Escapees RV Club, I wrote a feature length travel article about the ghouls and goblins of Goblin Valley for Escapees Magazine.

I didn’t know anything about editorial deadlines back then, so my submission was very late for the Halloween issue. But their super skilled editor at the time, Janice Lasko, sliced it down to an elegant single page and published it. OMG. I floated up to Cloud 9.

Since then my writing dream has been fulfilled…and so much more. I have now published over 100 feature articles in the RV and sailing industry magazines and was given my own little bi-monthly column on the back page of Trailer Life Magazine. What a dream come true!

Meanwhile, after an early winter season in the southwest in 2007-08, we discovered that Florida was enjoying a lot more warmth that year than Arizona was. So we dashed across the country and dipped our toes in the vivid waters of the Florida’s Emerald Coast.

Florida's Emerald Coast Pensacola Beach RV trip

Pensacola Beach on Florida’s Emerald Coast

If there is one huge lesson we have learned over the past ten years it is that traveling is a process of shedding one’s prejudices and preconceptions.

Before seeing a place, everyone has an idea of what it’s like, because we read things and see photos. But those are just postcard sized glimpses, and they are someone else’s vision.

It isn’t until you actually go and visit a place yourself that you can have any real notion of what it is really like there.

And so it was with Florida for me.

A tern on the beach in Florida

We discovered Florida’s beauty early in our travels and we’re so glad we did!

Mark had spent time in Florida growing up, but I’d been there only a few times to visit family, not to sightsee. The little I’d seen and the tales I’d heard of high rises on the beach in Miami, the cheesy tourist traps everywhere and the endless golf courses didn’t excite me much. So, when we began wandering all over the Florida with our trailer, I didn’t expect to fall in love with the state.

But I did. Florida is just wonderful!

We got down as far south as South Beach in Miami (oooh such clear and warm water — fabulous!) and we hung around the state through Spring Break which was soon in full swing everywhere.

While strolling down Daytona Beach one day, a phalanx of hot bikini clad babes approached us. Our jaws dropped as we stared at this line of teenage female perfection coming at us. I grabbed my camera and Mark quickly jumped into their midst and asked if we could take a photo.

Daytona Beach Florida Spring Break happy RV camper

Mark is one happy camper!

Needless to say, that photo made the rounds of all of his friends for the next 24 hours. The funny things was, as we both were waking up the next morning we said to each other simultaneously, “Did you notice that all of those girls had a belly button ring?”

The world was changing around us, but we hadn’t really noticed. And it would be a few more years before it really hit us just how fast and dramatically those changes were happening.

I had never heard the word “antebellum” before — I guess I wasn’t paying attention in high school — but I knew it well after seeing lots of antebellum mansions in Natchez, Mississippi. These “firsts” seemed endless in those early days.

Longwood antebellum mansion Natchez Mississippi

Antebellum mansion “Longwood” in Natchez, Mississippi.

Our 27′ travel trailer had proved to be too small that first winter. We had been living on solar power since we started this full-time RVing adventure, but our single 130 watt solar panel hadn’t quite been up to the job during the long dark nights of winter. Supplementing with oil lamps hung inside the trailer was okay, but not great!

We realized it was time for a new RV. We loved visiting RV dealerships and factories all over the country, and we had gathered a stack of fifth wheel brochures that was three inches thick. So, on a factory tour of the NuWa Hitchhiker fifth wheel manufacturing plant, we decided to take the plunge and trade up to a brand new year-old model that had been housed inside while it waited for a buyer.

The economy was beginning to stall in the spring of 2008, and we got a great deal on our new fifth wheel trailer. We now had cushy recliners in the back and three slide-outs.

To top it off, we installed 480 watts of solar power on the roof and a big solar charge controller and inverter in the basement. We had gotten hookups only a handful of times so far in this new and crazy lifestyle, but now we would now live as if we had electrical hookups all the time.

Happy RV travelers with fifth wheel trailer Valley of Fire State Park Nevada

Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.

We also discovered — after exhausting ourselves by running around so much — that we weren’t on vacation. All those beautiful places would still be there next month, so why run? We slowed way down, and the summer of 2008 gave us a full and glorious month at the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. With diesel prices topping $5/gallon at the North Rim, it was an ideal time not to drive long distances!

Imperial Point Grand Canyon North Rim RV roadtrip

Imperial Point at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

This was followed by a month at Bryce Canyon National Park and nearby Red Canyon in Utah.

Bryce Canyon Inspiration Point RV travel

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

During that summer I started this website. I was so grateful for the (very few) sailing and RVing websites that existed before we started our RV adventure, that I wanted to put our journey and discoveries out there for others to be able to learn from too.

Building this website added a fun new dimension to our travels. We now had a special home for all our photos, and it motivated us to try to capture really special images.

Old Roads Less Traveled Website

Here’s how this website looked before I converted it to WordPress in 2012!

We had graduated from our first “Year of Discovery” to our second “Year of Exploration.”

We were still shocked to wake up every day and not have to go to work, and we were still saying “wow” on a regular basis. But our new phrase had became “What a cool area!” as we ventured to places that were off the beaten path and that weren’t posted with National Park Service signs.

Cathedral Gorge State Park near charming Pioche, Nevada, was one of those many jewels that caught our attention as we perused our DeLorme Atlas looking for places to go. Crawling in and out of its exotic pinnacles, we said to each other once again, “What a cool area!”

Cathedral Gorge State Park hiking in Nevada

Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada

Winter saw us back in the Sonoran desert of Arizona where the sunrises and sunsets are jaw-dropping… all the time!

Arizona sunset over fifth wheel trailer RV

Sunset in Arizona.

While buzzing around Arizona and experiencing the wild and crazy boondocking scene in Quartzsite, we were absolutely thrilled to have one of our photos of our rig land on the cover of Escapees Magazine, an incredible “first” of what has since then grown into a collection of 23 magazine cover photos.

Escapees RV Club Magazine Cover Jan-Feb 2009 Bryce Canyon UT

Our first magazine cover image
Jan/Feb 2009 cover of Escapees Magazine

Flush with excitement, we zipped out to Florida again to get a whiff of salt air and some sand between our toes.

While watching the boats coming and going on the Florida coast, my yearning to see the world from the deck of a sailboat hit me full force. We had originally thought our travel adventures would be on the ocean, but we had changed our minds at the last minute.

Being on the water revived our idea of going sailing, and we soon immersed ourselves in the search for a suitable and affordable sailboat.

The search took us from Florida to California, and we made four offers on various Hunter 44 and 45 sailboats. We even paid to survey a sailboat in Oakland that we ended up not buying after we hauled it out and took a closer look with a professional yacht surveyor!

Hunter 44DS haul-out and survey

Buying a sailboat was a long process. We paid to haul this one out, but discovered the seller’s definition of “mint condition” was not the same as ours!

In 2009 the economy was in free fall. We knew that with every month that passed, the quality of boat we could afford was getting better and better. But it took the boat owners a full year to realize their beloved yachts weren’t worth what they once were, and California boat brokers are a ruthless bunch to boot.

In our excitement (and terror) at planning a jump from RVing to sailing, we zipped down I-5 in California from one prospective boat to the next. Catastrophe struck while en route to yet another survey and haul out prior to closing.

With a full 10% of the purchase price down on a boat (required by California brokers), we had an accident while driving to the marina with our trailer, and I found myself on the side of the I-5 freeway in tears on the phone with our broker who absolutely refused to refund our money and give us time to regroup and get our rolling home repaired. If we didn’t show up for the survey before the contracted deadline, he said fiercely, we’d lose our money.

More tears and much anguish later, I eventually got the government agency California Boating and Waterways to intervene, and we got our money back. But we hightailed it out of the shark infested waters of California boat buying and sought solace with family in Michigan while our trailer spent seven weeks in a repair shop in California.

After a week or so of family visits in Michigan, we got the travel bug again. We rented a car and did a car/hotel tour of the perimeter of Michigan’s mitten and even got up into the Upper Peninsula. What a gorgeous state! We loved all the small towns that perch on the shores of pretty Lake Michigan.

South Haven Lighthouse Michigan at sunset

Sunset at South Haven Lighthouse in Michigan.

Once our trailer was back in order, we resumed our travels out west and found paradise once again in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho.

RV camping Sawtooth National Forest Idaho

Camping in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho.

We continued to check Yachtworld (the boating MLS service) every day, and saw that boat prices were continuing to fall as 2009 progressed. But we relished our RV travels so much it almost didn’t matter if we made our (my) sailing dream come true or not.

Mark was as enthusiastic about going cruising as I was — we had both been enchanted by the book An Embarrassment of Mangoes about sailng the Caribbean — but the primal urge to live on a sailboat and travel by sea was really mine. Yet I had to admit that every day of our RVing lives was a total thrill too, and during the summer of 2009 we enjoyed every minute in our buggy.

We had never known any true cowboys or cattle ranchers in our previous city based lives. As we traveled the west in these early years we were fascinated to meet and spend time with several different ranchers, and we learned terms like “section” which equates to 640 acres or a square mile of land.

Chatting with one old rancher and his wife out camping, we were amazed to hear their stories of ranching on horseback decades ago as they raised cattle on their SIX SECTIONS of land in eastern Wyoming!

They joked that their kids now do it today with ATV’s. How cool is that? And how would we have ever met that couple if we’d stayed home in our old lives?!

Helmville Rodeo bronco riding Montana

Our first rodeo — Helmville Rodeo in Montana.

By the fall of 2009, we had enjoyed two winters of RV life split between the southwest and Florida, but I just couldn’t spend another winter freezing in our RV again! Both Arizona and Florida are warm states, but the cold winter storms that swing through are much colder when boondocking in an RV!

Besides, if we were going to cruise the tropics in a sailboat, we had to decide whether we’d sail the Caribbean or the Pacific coast of Mexico. It was time to talk to some cruisers in the Caribbean.

On the beach in Grenada eastern Caribbean

On the beach in Grenada – What could be better than a winter in the tropics?!!

We hopped on a plane and flew to the Grenadines. We had sailed together in the British Virgin Islands and I had sailed in the Grenadines in my previous life twenty years prior. How different it was to visit on a land-based trip! Unfortunately, the locals weren’t friendly and we had a bad experience with an official in Bequia.

But that didn’t keep us from having a fantastic time, and it didn’t stop our obsession with Yachtworld either. It just confirmed that we weren’t going to buy a boat on the east coast.

Then, out of the blue, our dream boat came up for sale in San Diego — for a song. It was a one year old, unimproved, vanilla boat, perfect for the major upgrades we wanted to install ourselves. We had known about this boat for a while, but it had been priced out of reach. However, the failing economy had put it into foreclosure, and suddenly, with the impromptu submission of an online bid that was lower than low, the boat was ours.

Carriacou in the Grenadines eastern Caribbean

Carriacou Island in the Grenadines.

We cut our 3-month Caribbean excursion short and left after just 3 weeks to dash to San Diego on a hastily arranged flight that included sleeping arrangements on a luggage conveyor belt at New York’s JFK airport as the New Year’s 2010 ball dropped in Times Square.

Our new 2008 Hunter 44DS sailboat was gorgeous. We quickly finalized the purchase and moved aboard, excitedly unlocking the padlock the bank had used to chain it to the dock.

What a fabulous life! We were in love with our beautiful yacht, Groovy. But our lives were now completely upside down!

Happy sailors ready to begin a cruise of Mexico

Holy smokes, we own a sailboat!

We rushed the trailer into covered storage in Phoenix and dashed back to San Diego to try to figure out how to sail this new boat.

My previous boat that I had lived aboard for four years in Boston Harbor had been just 36 feet long and had had only one sail (it was a wish-bone rigged Nonsuch). Mark had never sailed anything bigger than a Hobie Cat. But we were eager beavers, and we jumped into our new lifestyle with glee.

New cruisers learn about sailing and the cruising lifestyle

We had a learning curve ahead of us on this fancy 44′ yacht!

We sailed 70 miles down to Ensenada, Mexico, as part of our offshore delivery closing procedure, and we lived aboard the boat there for six months while we outfitted it and got used to being cruisers.

What a culture shock this was on all fronts!

Ensenada Mexico party central

Ensenada, Mexico, is a fabulous party town.

We had been living a very quiet and super easy lifestyle in our trailer where we camped for free every night and saw beautiful things every day. Now we were living in Mexico, a totally foreign culture with a foreign language and very different history than America’s. And we loved it.

Ensenada is a fun and vibrant city that is an absolute hoot to live in. We were lucky enough to be living at the swank Hotel Coral and Marina. Not only did we have electric and water hookups, we also had beautiful resort hot tubs and swimming pools right outside our door. What a life!

Over the years, we had found that the only way to get to know an area was to wander around on foot or by bike, and wander around Ensenada we did. The boat needed quite a bit of TLC, and we installed a fabulous solar power system on a beautiful arch on the transom. With every project we tackled, we needed to hit the town and buy some parts.

So, we walked all over Ensenada from one hardware store — or “Ferreteria” — to the next.

Hardware store ferreteria in Mexico

When we needed parts or tools anywhere in Mexico, the local Ferreteria was where we’d go.

I had studied Spanish before we ran off in our trailer in preparation for just such a life adventure, but Mark hadn’t. Yet he was the one who would walk up to the counter and say, “Buenos Días” with great confidence and then attempt to ask for whatever we needed in whatever Spanglish he could muster.

I was way too embarrassed to utter a sound at first, but over time I got past that. In the end, one of my greatest joys in our years in Mexico was reaching the point where I could hold a basic conversation in Spanish with a native speaker.

We returned to San Diego in the fall — anchoring out in one of the free anchorages every night — and we did our final preparations and upgrades for cruising.

Mark is a mechanical genius, and I was floored that he was able to complete the very complicated 60 gallon per hour water desalination system installation on our sailboat to convert ocean water to fresh drinking water while we were at anchor in San Diego Bay.

Our watermaker included two water strainers, 3 water filters and two 8′ long desalination membranes as well as a both low pressure and high pressure water pumps. It soon became Mark’s favorite part of the boat, and it produced enough water to wash the decks!

San Diego under full moon from sailboat in San Diego Bay

San Diego Bay

Catching the (more or less) downwind breeze out of San Diego in early November, 2010, we sailed 800 miles (at 7 mph) south to Cabo San Lucas and began our Mexico cruise for real.

Cabo San Lucas sailing adventure

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Then, crossing the Sea of Cortez at its widest spot, we traversed the 330 miles where the violent Pacific meets the raging Sea of Cortez and all hell breaks loose on a regular basis. The conditions were horrible.

Mark laid on the settee in the cabin for most of the trip, not seasick but not happy. “There is nothing about this I like!” he said at one point.

We laugh about that now, how I dragged him to the tropics — kicking and screaming — on a sailboat. But at the time I was just as miserable.

The 15′ waves chasing us down from behind 24/7 were terrifying. Our kitchen knife flew off the counter and landed like a dagger in the floor. Our stainless steel teapot flew off the stove just before I pulled the latch to allow the stove to swing in the massive waves, and to this day it still bears a huge dent in its side from hitting the companionway stairs, a friendly reminder each time we boil water of where our traveling lives have taken us.

Stainless steel teapot dented during Sea of Cortez sailing passage

Our stainless steel teapot got a big dent in it when it flew off the stove crossing the Sea of Cortez. We still use this teapot today in our rig…!

While Mark willed the world to stop rolling and let him off mid-ocean, I spent my time calculating and recalculating just how many more hours it would be until we made landfall.

Three days and two nights of sailing eventually got us across the open ocean to Mexico’s mainland. After dropping the hook and settling into Chamela Bay, for the next week I woke up every night in the middle of the night in a total panic as I felt Mark next to me in bed and wondered who in the heck was on watch in the cockpit steering the boat!

Joshua Slocum, the first man to sail a small boat around the world solo (1895-1898), had the same experience on his voyage. But in his delirious state, when he looked into the cockpit he saw Christopher Columbus at the helm! Now I understood exactly what he was talking about.

What made my confusion all the more real on those first frightening nights at anchor was that the boat moved constantly in the waves. The Pacific Ocean is anything but “pacific,” and the boat swung wildly all night every night.

Waves crashing in Chamela Bay Mexico Costalegre coast

Big waves at Chamela Bay on Mexico’s Costalegre.

We had to make more overnight passages as we continued south along the coast, and although we never liked them — we did 31 overnight passages all together in our nearly four years at sea — we eventually got used to them.

Mark would pass his time on watch learning to play new songs on his guitar, and I would pass my time by writing. Neither of us could sleep a wink while off watch, so these overnight passages were essentially all-nighters for both of us!!

Overnight passage on sailboat

Sailing at night has been described as galloping bareback through the woods blindfolded. Very apt!

But all that uncomfortable stuff aside, the sights we saw during the day were breathtaking.

Las Hadas resort in Manzanillo Bay was our first major stop, and we loved every moment we were there. It was the setting for the movie “10” and even without Bo Derek, this place was a “10” all the way.

Las Hadas Resort beach Manzanillo Bay Mexico

Las Hadas Resort beach in Manzanillo Bay, Mexico

Las Hadas resort marina Manzanillo Mexico

The condos next to Las Hadas Resort looked like something out of the Mediterranean!

We began meeting other cruisers, and several people who had been cruising in Mexico for a year already talked us into sailing further south to Zihuatanejo. And this was where we finally hit our stride as cruisers.

Fishing in Mexico

Mark does a little fishing from our dinghy tied to the back of Groovy!

It was Christmas but you’d never guess it on the beach. We got more and more laid back as we hung around this wonderful little tropical beach town. By day, we’d wander around on foot and on many afternoons we’d grab a $1 beer and “totopos” (salted fried tortilla chips) under a palapa (thatch beach umbrella) with our toes in the sand.

Before taking our dinghy back out to Groovy, we’d pick up a fish from the open air fish market on the beach for a yummy dinner aboard.

Fish market in Zihuatanejo Mexico

The fish market on the beach in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

And then we’d watch the sun set into the ocean. One night we even saw the green flash!

Sunset in the ocean Zihuatanejo Mexico

The sun fell into the sea in a flaming ball of red every night in Zihuatanejo.

An enterprising couple ran a concession for cruisers, taking orders over the VHF radio for anything from beer to diesel to propane to laundry service, and delivering the goods by boat later in the day.

Sailboats anchored at Las Gatas Beach Zihuatanejo Mexico

Zihuatanejo Bay, Mexico.

The VHF radio added a new and strange social element to our lives. Cruisers have virtual VHF radio gatherings every morning in the more popular anchorages, and suddenly we found ourselves hosting these morning rituals. Each boat in the anchorage would check in by name, and then any pertinent news would be announced.

After living such a private life in our trailer, we had suddenly turned into socialites. We gathered all the cruisers together for a Christmas Eve party at a local bar (to the bar owner’s delight). A week or so later, all the cruisers took their dinghies to Las Gatas Beach across the bay for a “pool” party in the water.

There was lots of activity of the non-human sort too. During the two month, 1,100 mile sail back up the coast towards the Sea of Cortez, we saw whales breaching quite close by.

Whale breaching Santiago Beach Manzanillo Bay Mexico

A breaching whale in Santiago Bay, Mexico.

Anchoring for an overnight at Isla Isabel off of Mazatlan, we hiked around the uninhabited island and saw blue footed boobies with their very fluffy babies!

Blue Footed Boobies birds and chicks Isla Isabel Mexico

Blue footed boobies on Isla Isabel.

One of the big surprises in Mexico was that the water was often murky. This was largely due to the frequent invasion of red tide which has a month-long lifecycle that turns the water from the color of Merlot to a dark brown and then to a mustard yellow.

Red tide Pacific Ocean Mexican coast

Red tide in an early phase of its lifecycle.

But up in the Sea of Cortez, in the spring of 2011, we found several anchorages filled with the beautiful turquoise water we had been dreaming of cruising in.

Many of the bays were picture postcard perfect.

Isla San Francisco anchored sailboats Sea of Cortez Baja California Mexico

Isla San Francisco in the Sea of Cortez.

Anchoring in these bays was still a wild ride every night, and there wasn’t much sleep going on. But the tranquility and remoteness during the day was sublime. At one point we went for 17 days without access to the world via the internet. It is hard to imagine that now, but even then it was a shock to be that far removed from the Real World.

Agua Verde anchorage with sailboats Sea of Cortez Baja California Mexico

Agua Verde in the Sea of Cortez

The only people we saw were villagers in the tiny fishing hamlets and small towns that dot the coast.

Well… the villagers and Wilson, of course, who Mark found lying on a deserted beach not long after we’d watched the movie Castaway!

Stranded sailor finds Wilson

Wilson!!

One evening a boat full of people pulled up alongside Groovy in the pitch dark and offered to sell us some lobster. It was a family, and the mom had a toddler in her lap. We aren’t big lobster fans, so we jokingly asked if they had any Sierra which is a golden spotted fish also known as Spanish mackerel. They said no, but they could go get some.

Before we could ask what they meant, they zoomed off into the night. An hour later they appeared with a beautiful fish for us. We have no idea if they had thrown over a line and caught it or if they went back to their village and found someone who had one on ice somewhere, but it was a beauty and it was delicious.

Hunter 44DS sailboat Groovy anchored at Isla Coronado Sea of Cortez Baja California Mexico

Anchored at Isla Coronado in the Sea of Cortez.

One morning we heard slapping sounds outside the boat. We poked our heads out of the companionway and saw a school of rays leaping out of the water. They were popping up all over the place like popcorn. Some even did somersaults.

Flying mobula ray or manta ray Sea of Cortez Baja California Mexico

A mobula ray leaps out of the water.

Flying mobula ray or manta ray Sea of Cortez Baja California Mexico

These guys would fly out of the water and even do somersaults.

Cruising Mexico and anchoring out all the time often means dropping the hook in front of a luxury resort. Suddenly, in the middle of the Sea of Cortez where there is often nothing but raw nature, we came across the brand spanking new Villa del Palmar resort.

It had barely opened, and cruisers were welcome to walk up from the beach and have a drink at their poolside bar. Not bad!

We were given a tour, and looking out a window from high up in one of the towers, our tour guide explained how the six swimming pools had been laid out in the shape of a sea turtle.

Villa del Palmar Resort Loreto Baja California Sea of Cortez Mexico

Villa del Palmar Resort. The swimming pools are laid out like a sea turtle.

Cruising is not without its hazards, however, and on another morning we saw a boat impaled on a towering rock that jutted up out of the Sea of Cortez in th emiddle of nowhere. We found out later the singlehanding captain had dared a night crossing but had fallen asleep at the wheel.

Fortunately, a year or so later when we got down to Acapulco, we learned that he was able to repair his boat and continue cruising.

Sailboat crashed into rock Baja California Sea of Cortez Mexico

The sea can be unforgiving, and we saw and heard many terrifying tales of cruises gone bad.

By the end of that first cruising season we had very mixed emotions about the lifestyle. On our boat we had experienced higher highs and lower lows than in any other lifestyle we’d ever lived. It was thrilling and often extremely beautiful, but a lot of the time it was very trying as well.

We were “living the dream,” but was it a dream??

We had poured our life savings into buying and outfitting a sailboat for what we thought would be a 10 year off-and-on cruise, going home to our trailer during hurricane season each summer. But now we weren’t so sure about it all.

Bahia Concepcion Conception Bay Playa El Burro Playa Ensenada Baja California Sea of Cortez Mexico

Bahia Concepcion in the Sea of Cortez.

We left Groovy in San Carlos, Mexico, on the mainland side of the Sea of Cortez and took the bus 10 hours north to Phoenix. We were thrilled beyond belief to get back in our little buggy and take off for Utah and northern Arizona for a quickie 12 week sojourn.

We loved everything about living in our trailer and camping in the jaw-dropping scenery of the western states, and it felt so great to be doing it again.

Cedar Breaks National Monument welcomed us with beautiful wildflowers and wonderfully brooding summer monsoon skies.

Happy RVers at Cedar Breaks National Park Utah

Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah.

But we loved many things about our life aboard Groovy too, as tough and gritty and salty and dirty as the cruising lifestyle could be.

After a quick dash from Flagstaff, Arizona, through the red rocks of Utah in our trailer, we returned to Mexico as “second season” cruisers, a status in the odd social strata of the cruising community that took us out of the class of rank beginners.

It felt great to know what we were doing, and in the course of a few months we sailed back down south from the middle of the Sea of Cortez to Puerto Vallarta, Zihuatanejo and then on to Acapulco and finally to the spectacular Bays of Hualulco, about 1,600 miles all together.

Working the winches on a sailboat

Working the winches.

On our way south we revisited all the spots we had seen the year before, but Acapulco was a new and fabulous surprise. We watched the famous “La Quebrada” divers doing swan dives off the cliffs into the depths of the swirling ocean below, and we discovered that the outlying anchorages were absolutely wonderful and full of life.

Acapulco Cliff Divers of La Quebrada

La Quebrada Cliff Diver in Acapulco

One night we were awakened by whales singing to each other in the bay. The beautiful and mysterious sound was amplified by the hull of the boat and filled the cabin with exotic squeaks and squeals as we laid in bed! It seemed like the whales were all around us.

One morning Mark pulled up the anchor to find a sea horse staring at him as it hung onto the anchor chain with its tail wrapped around one of the links.

We discovered other wonders when we did some travels to inland Mexico too. Mexico is home to some truly stunning colonial cities that were built by the Spanish in the 16th and 17th centuries. In Oaxaca we found the cathedrals were ornately decorated and richly painted in gold leaf.

Cathedral at night Oaxaca Mexico Our Lady of Assumption

Our Lady of Assumption Cathedral in Oaxaca, Mexico

Inside Santo Domingo Cathedral Oxaca Mexico

Inside the Santo Domingo Cathedral in Oxaca Mexico

The city of Oaxaca is utterly charming, and we walked the many historic streets mesmerized by the colorful buildings and the very artsy and funky vibe.

Oaxaca Mexico street in the historic district

Historic street in Oaxaca, Mexico.

At night we visited the Zócalo, or town square, where several different celebrations and festivals were all going on at once. From a parade passing by to groups of Mariachi musicians playing on the corners and at the open air restaurants to a school reunion taking place in the middle of it all, Oaxaca came alive at night.

A trio of little girls dressed in traditional Oaxacan garb carrying baskets on their heads as part of their school celebration caught our eye.

Oaxaca children in traditional dresses at school festival Oaxaca Zocalo Mexico

Oaxacan children in traditional dress for a school celebration.

A little ways outside of town we visited the ancient Zapotec ruins at Monte Alban. These mammoth step pyramids dating back to the 7th century were mind boggling to see, and watching a school group in their red and white uniforms tour the ruins and answer their teacher’s questions was very special. This was a far cry from my school class trip to colonial America’s Sturbridge Village in western Massachusetts!

Monte Alban temple ancient Zapotec ruins Oaxaca Mexico

Monte Alban ancient Zapotec step pyramid in Oaxaca, Mexico

Sailing 400 miles further south to the last marina in Mexico’s state of Chiapas, right before the Guatemala border, we again took the bus inland to visit the Mayan ruins of Palenque. Again, we were stunned by the size and scale of this enormous, sophisticated and ancient city.

Palenque ancient Mayan ruins Chiapas Mexico

Palenque — ancient Mayan ruins in Chiapas, Mexico.

Taking a boat ride in an exotic long and skinny boat up the river that separates Mexico from Guatemala, we visited the very remote Mayan ruins at Yaxchilan and Bonampak.

Bonampak lies in a part of Mexico where indigenous people lived unbeknownst to westerners until they were discovered by two American explorers in 1929. Their descendents are now park rangers and they showed us the fantastic frescoes that line the walls of one of the temples, depicting the life and times of ancient nobles.

Fresco in Bonampak Mayan ruins Chiapas Mexico

A fresco depicting the lives of Mayan nobles in Bonampak.

When we left our sailboat in Marina Chiapas in Mexico and flew back home to our trailer for six months in the summer of 2012, how amazing it was to look at the petroglyphs in Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and realize that they were pecked out of the rocks some 500 years after the frescoes had been painted on the walls of Bonampak 2,500 miles to the south!

Petroglyphs Dinosaur National Monument Utah

Petroglyphs depicting… ummm… I’m not sure! In Dinosaur National Monument, Utah

As we took our buggy from Arizona to Montana, our heads were spinning by all we’d seen, and we were beginning to feel a depth and breadth in our souls that hadn’t been there before.

We felt like we were beginning to blossom into true adventurers. Even better, we were developing a budding understanding of the world beyond our back yard.

Sunset Miner Creek RV camping trip Montana

Sunset in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana.

As we visited the gorgeous Bitterroot Valley with our special friends and hosts in Montana and traveled to Flaming Gorge in Utah in the summer of 2012, we began to ponder what had happened to us in the last five years.

Rainbow Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area Utah

A rainbow over Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Utah.

We had set out to have an adventure in a small trailer, and we’d ended up learning how to live on the ocean in a foreign country with foreign customs and a foreign language.

Our desire to see the National Parks in the American West had expanded to take us to world renowed ancient ruins at several UNESCO World Heritage sites in Mexico.

Living abroad had taught us to see the world differently than we had before, and we felt different inside too.

Happy RVers Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area Utah

Flaming Gorge, Utah.

Our interests were continuing to evolve as well, and photography was becoming more and more important to our daily lives. We wanted to do more than simply document what we saw. We wanted to learn how to take knock-your-socks-off photos!

We attended a terrific photography workshop in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado given by a photography blogger that Mark had been following for a long time, Nasim Mansurov. Those short three days ultimately became a significant turning point in our lives.

Sunrise San Juan Mountains Colorado Rocky Mountains RV trip

Fall color at sunrise in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.

We returned to Groovy in the fall of 2012 knowing it would be our last year afloat and brimming with excitement to make the absolute most we possibly could of our final season of cruising.

Continued at: 10 Years of Life on the Road – 2nd Half!

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Inspirational and reflective posts about the RVing and cruising lifestyles:

Ex-pat Life on a Sailboat in Mexico:

An Overview of Our First 10 Years of Full-time Travel + Reflections after 9 Years!

Summaries of Each Year on the Road - All of our travel posts in chronological order:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
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Eggs & Aliens in Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness (Bisti Badlands)

May 2017 – There’s a wonderful natural treasure to be found in northwestern New Mexico at the Bisti Badlands — or Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness — just 40 miles south of Farmington.

Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico Photographing the Eggs

Hanging out with the alien eggs at Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in New Mexico

We had a very magical experience in this exotic location five years ago and we wanted to get back once again.

Exotic Landscapes Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

There are all kinds of hoodoos in the Bisti Badlands

The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a huge area filled with crazy rock formations that resemble everything from spacecraft to furniture to alien eggs. Because it is a wilderness area, there are no trails and no vehicles are allowed either. The only way to see it is to walk on in and start exploring.

The hoodoos and colorful mounds make for a great day of fun just getting lost in a maze of crazy shapes, and on our last visit we roamed all over the place climbing up and over red and black and orange striped conical hills that easily stood 50 to 100 feet high.

Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

There are no hiking trails in Bisti Badlands, but walking in any direction takes you to cool rocks!

But the “prize” in Bisti Badlands, if there can be such a thing, is the tiny group of stones that look like alien creatures emerging from their cracked egg shells.

Cracked eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

In one corner of the Bisti Wilderness there is a collection of rocks that look like alien eggs or pods.

Alien eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Cracked egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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This is a favorite area for photographers, and we headed out in the late afternoon as the shadows were getting long.

Alien egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Some of the rocks look very much like eggs sitting on a dish or embryonic alien life forms emerging from the shell.

Eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Each one is a little different, and some look as though they might come to life.

Eggs on pedestals Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

A creature from afar?

Alien eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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As we wandered around the perimeter of these fantastic rock formations and crouched down to see them up close, I suddenly heard Mark yell “Help!”

I turned around and saw his hand reaching out… he’d been swallowed up by an alien egg!

Human eating alien egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Oh no!!

Not really, of course, but these little guys were very engaging and we were having lots of fun getting photos of them and playing with effects.

Eggs alien egg factory Bisti Badlands De-Na-Zin Wilderness

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Sometimes we couldn’t help but get in the photo in one way or another, even if it was just a shadow of ourselves.

Photography at the Eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

With such long shadows sometimes we had to incorporate our own shadows!

Hoodoos Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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As the hours went by, one by one, each egg lost the sun’s golden glow. Then the setting sun threw some pretty colors across the sky.

Hoodoos Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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One of the things I love most about these alien egg rocks is that each one is decorated with a different pattern on its surface.

Some have a wonderful pattern that seems very deliberate, as if carved by a divine hand.

Exotic egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Each egg was decorated with a unique pattern.

Some are very bold, with definite lines and carvings.

Alien shellback Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Others have finer lines and have started to fade in places.

Decorated egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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And some don’t have any decorations at all.

Egg in shell Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Decorations or no, you just can’t beat seeing one of these crazy egg rocks set off by a pink sunset.

Eggs at sunset Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

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And then, with a flash from the west, the sun was gone.

Sunset Bisti Badlands De-Na-Zin Wilderness

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We decided to stick around to see what this other-worldly place looked like at night.

We’d brought our big flashlight with us which is like a car headlight (review here). We put it on its lowest setting and began playing with it doing “light painting” on the rocks. Cool!

We also had two smaller 1000 lumen pocket flashlights (review here), and we experimented with using them for light painting as well. The smaller, dimmer lights produced a wonderful effect.

721 Cracked eggs at night Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

We did a little “light painting” on the eggs with a flashlight as it got dark.

A few stars began to twinkle in the rich light of dusk. The moon was rising and looked like a huge street light above us. Mark was using his favorite wide angle lens and it made a fabulous starburst out of the moon!

Full moon starburst Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

The nearly full moon created a starburst in the sky at dusk.

Back at the trailer when we were going through our photos, Mark emailed this cool shot to a friend who’s a video arts and Photoshop expert. Suddenly he got an email back that looked a little spooky!

Full moon starburst Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico with UFO

What’s that flying over the cliffs?

As a gag, he emailed the revised photo to another good friend who is also a photographer and Photoshop expert, and suddenly it came back looking even spookier!

UFO Full moon starburst Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

OMG – They’re shining their spotlight on our rig!

But before we could play with our photos in the rig, we had to get back out of Bisti Badlands in the dark.

I was glad the moon was so bright. Like our old days of sailing on our boat when we made long ocean passages at night, the moon was like a very dear friend in the sky. The eggs around us were easy to see, and it even cast shadows on the ground.

Stars at cracked eggs Bisti Badlands De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Eggs by the light of the moon.

Even with the moon so bright, more and more stars began to appear in the sky above us.

Stars at night Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

As we hiked out we saw more and more stars.

Hiking out in the dark was quite a thrill. We heard some coyotes very close by and were hoping to catch a glimpse of them, but they must have caught our scent and heard our footsteps because they soon headed off into the night.

Stars over hoodoos Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Stars over the hoodoos.

Every so often we could see the lights of a power plant in the distance, keeping us more or less on track! We ended up scaling a few more deep washes on the way out than on the way in, but we made it out just fine!

Some notes and a word of caution for folks heading to Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness with RVs:

The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and is a very special place that is well worth a detour to visit.

RVs are allowed to park overnight in the fenced off parking area which can hold a few truck campers or perhaps 3-4 larger RVs. The “RV” end of the parking lot can get very muddy when it rains and the ruts from RVs that had been there during recent rains were quite deep.

This parking area is located about 3 miles down a dirt road off of Route 371. When we went to Bisti Badlands in late September of 2012, the 3 mile dirt road was well graded and it wasn’t difficult to drive on with our fifth wheel trailer.

Now, however, it appears that the road has not been graded in a very long time, and it is absolutely terrible. We drove at 3-9 mph the entire way in both directions, no joke. Not only was everything in our rig badly shaken up but we discovered the locking nut on one of the bolts that goes through the equalizer in our fifth wheel suspension actually fell off. Without a locking nut, the bolt had worked itself almost all the way out during our drive in. Luckily, Mark was able to fix this right there in the dirt parking lot. More on that coming soon!

More importantly, it seems that Bisti Badlands has been “discovered.”

In 2012 we were the only RV there for one night and we had just one companion RV another night. This year the parking area was quite busy every night with cars, vans, truck campers and short Class C’s crammed in, and lots of people came in cars to hike for the day as well.

In 2012 there were no footprints beyond the gate into the wilderness area, and this year there were footprints everywhere, especially leading to the eggs, and there were lots of people out hiking. In 2012 there were a few boondocking areas down the road, but now there are markers at those spots saying “No Vehicles.”

As we were packing to leave Bisti Badlands on a Saturday morning, four cars arrived and joined the RVs that had stayed overnight. During the 45 minutes it took us to drive the dirt road out to the highway, 12 more cars and trucks passed us on their way in. I have no idea if or how all those vehicles could fit in the parking lot!

So…. if you own a bigger RV, it might be wise to leave it in Farmington and make a day trip to Bisti Badlands in the tow vehicle or toad. Mid-week will be quieter than weekends, especially during the peak seasons of spring and fall.

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More info about Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness (Bisti Badlands):

The website for the BLM is undergoing many changes and doesn’t have information about Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness at the moment. We describe how we found the eggs on our previous visit at this link.

Location of Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Parking Area – Interactive Google Maps

If you go into the Bisti Wilderness with a friend or spouse, it’s a good idea to stick close together or take a set of two-way radios. We used both our radios and a hand-held compass. A hand-held GPS can be a helpful tool too (although we just used our compass). We also used all three of our Lumintop flashlights (reviews HERE (searchlight) and HERE (pocket flashlights).

Other blog posts from New Mexico:

Night hikes and starry skies:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

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